Pro-marijuana candidates could impact Minnesota Senate races

Published 6:43 am Saturday, November 7, 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Votes for pro-marijuana candidates could be the difference in a pair of Minnesota state Senate races, where those candidates pulled in thousands of votes despite minimal campaigning efforts.

As absentee ballots continue getting tallied in critical swing races, Democrats say pro-marijuana candidates may have helped Republicans maintain control of the state Senate, which ironically hurts the recreational pot cause by preserving the state’s divided government.

But Republicans contend that some candidates with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party appeared to benefit from the third-party candidates.

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Currently, only medical marijuana has been legalized in the state, the  Star Tribune reported.

In the Senate District 14 race, neither the Republican or Democratic candidates had seen Legal Marijuana Now candidate Jaden Partlo while campaigning, yet he received more than 3,000 votes Tuesday. As of Friday afternoon, DFL challenger Aric Putnam was leading Republican Sen. Jerry Relph by just a few hundred votes.

Democrats have said not only do pro-marijuana candidates lean Republican, but that they were recruited to hurt their chances of winning races.

Republican candidate Gene Dornink beat DFL Sen. Dan Sparks by 1,902 votes in Senate District 27. Tyler Becvar, the Legal Marijuana Now candidate who received more 2,500 votes in the race, posted a Facebook video in May promoting Dornink.

However, Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo said Becvar actually helped Sparks, citing results for House District 27B, which makes up half of Senate District 27.

No marijuana candidates were in the House district or presidential race, and the Republicans pulled in more votes. But in the state Senate, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races where there were marijuana candidates, he said Republican candidates suffered losses.

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said his party’s results seem to show that marijuana candidates took more votes from Democrats. The party is looking into claims that some marijuana candidates were offered financial assistance, he added.

“The pot parties really are the biggest losers here ultimately,” Martin said. “This has set back the movement of legalizing marijuana in the state.”

This summer, the state DFL party released a memo highlighting candidates in swing races where marijuana candidates had ties to Republican politics or posted conservative views on social media.